x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Griffin, Clippers return home after making quick work of woeful Bucks

Blake Griffin scored 20 and Los Angeles thrashed Milwaukee 114-86 on Monday night, ending a seven-game road trip on a high note.

Blake Griffin scored 20 points for the Clippers on Monday night. Jeffrey Phelps / AP
Blake Griffin scored 20 points for the Clippers on Monday night. Jeffrey Phelps / AP

MILWAUKEE, United States // These days, there’s no place like this Midwest outpost for NBA teams to end a long road trip on a high note.

Blake Griffin dominated the paint with 20 points, Jamal Crawford scored 25 and the Clippers ended their nearly two-week journey away from Los Angeles with a 114-86 win Monday night over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Forced to travel more than 11,000 miles through the air during the trip because the Staples Center was occupied by the Grammy Awards, Griffin looked right at home in Milwaukee.

After Griffin capped off a decisive 21-2 run in the second quarter with a three-point play, about the only drama left was to count up how many dunks Lob City’s stars would throw down the rest of the night.

“When we were flying yesterday, flying here, I remember guys saying they can’t wait to get home, stuff like that,” Griffin said. “But we knew we still had a game to play, some business to take care of.”

Los Angeles finished their trip 5-2, a franchise best for their annual Grammy sojourn. Darren Collison added 15 points and seven assists.

Ersan Ilyasova had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Bucks, an NBA-worst 8-36.

“Against a team like the Clippers, you have to be clicking on all cylinders,” Milwaukee coach Larry Drew said. “They’re playing extremely, extremely well. The low-post game has been really good.”

The 6ft 10ins (1.83 metres) Griffin alone was a handful in the second quarter. He backed down Ilyasova in the post, and then followed with a steal and breakaway dunk for a 49-36 lead with 3:32 left after Ilyasova mishandled a pass on the other end.

“The defence is what gave us those 114 points. There in the second quarter, middle of the second quarter, we got stops,” Griffin said.

At one point in the run, Griffin got into a brief shoving match with Khris Middleton (14 points) in a scramble for a loose ball. Each player was assessed a technical foul.

The fray only seemed to rile up the Clippers’ big man, who finished 8-of-13 from the field.

“I don’t think (Blake) needs the anger to do it. He just does it,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He has been our go-to guy down the stretch.”

Later, Bucks guard Luke Ridnour lost the ball on a drive into the lane and Los Angeles went on the break. Griffin in transition hit a layup around two defenders and got fouled for the three-point play to cap the big run.

By that time it was 57-36 with 1:33 in the second quarter. At least the dedicated fans that stuck around were treated to free hot chocolate on the concourse, a team promotion to fill the arena while arctic cold gripped the region.

The Clippers then led by as much as 39, and the lead fell below 20 just once in the second half.

Milwaukee did play with more energy two nights after Drew closed the locker room and challenged players’ lackadaisical style in a 25-point loss to the Hawks.

The Bucks just couldn’t keep up with the faster and more athletic Clippers. Drew said his team simply missed shots during the decisive run – including some good looks – and couldn’t answer the opponent’s momentum plays.

“You just have to stay the course. When things happen, sometimes you have plays that are rather deflating,” Caron Butler (11 points) said. “Take the ball out, continue to get out in transition, keep the momentum and try to play our style of basketball.”

Ilyasova was 6-of-22 from the field, and the Bucks shot just 38 per cent on the evening.

Things looked promising early for Milwaukee, in desperate need of a spark to make something out of this wayward season. Middleton’s jumper with 9:58 in the second got the Bucks within 34-32.

But as often has been the case this season, a spurt of turnovers and sloppy play spelled big trouble for Milwaukee.

OTHER MONDAY RESULTS

Thunder 111, Hawks 109

Forward Kevin Durant scored 41 points and hit the game-winning shot for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a comeback victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Durant scored the last seven points for Oklahoma City and also collected five assists and three blocked shots. He also extended his scoring streak to 11 games with at least 30 points.

Paul Millsap scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Hawks (23-21). He tied the game at 109-109 with 22 seconds left before Durant responded.

The Thunder (36-10) have won eight in a row to take over the best record in the Western Conference even while playing without All-Star Russell Westbrook.

Suns 124, 76ers 113

Gerald Green scored a season-high 30 points and backcourt partner Goran Dragic added 24 as Phoenix used a fast start to knock off the Philadelphia 76ers.

Phoenix (26-18) shot 77.3 per cent from the field in the first quarter while outscoring the Sixers 40-26 - the Suns’ highest-scoring first quarter of the season - and then fought off Philadelphia (14-31) the rest of the way.

Michael Carter-Williams had 22 points and 11 assists for the 76ers.

Raptors 104, Nets 103

Patrick Patterson’s 12-foot jumper with six seconds left lifted the Toronto Raptors to victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

The forward stole guard Deron Williams’ inbound pass, then took a pass from guard Kyle Lowry to give Toronto the lead.

Nets guard Paul Pierce, who scored a season-high 33 points and hit seven-of-10 attempts from three-point range, missed a desperation heave at the buzzer. Brooklyn (20-23) saw their five-game winning streak snapped.

Lowry contributed 31 points, seven assists, five rebounds for Toronto (23-21).

Timberwolves 95, Bulls 86

Minnesota forward Kevin Love scored 31 points, leading the Timberwolves to a victory over the Chicago Bulls.

The victory ended Minnesota’s seven-game losing streak to Chicago.

Two players who have missed the majority of the season with injuries brought a spark from the bench. Forward Ronny Turiaf scored 14 points and forward Chase Budinger added 12 for the Timberwolves (22-22).

Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago (22-22).

Jazz 106, Kings 99

Derrick Favors and forwards Marvin Williams and Jeremy Evans all tallied double-doubles, and the Utah Jazz took advantage of a short-handed Sacramento Kings squad en route to earn a victory.

The outcome pushed the Jazz’s record to 16-29 and dropped the Kings to 15-29, marking the first time this season Utah have not owned the worst record in the Western Conference.

Sacramento played without injured leading scorers DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, and also lost starting point guard Isaiah Thomas in the third quarter due to a stomach ailment.